Armagh U21 footballers will travel to Páirc Esler in Newry on Wednesday night to face Monaghan in the Ulster championship semi-final. Armagh made their way to the semi-final after a comfortable and comprehensive win over near neighbours and bitter rivals Down. Monaghan also had a comfortable passage to the semi-final, having accounted for Fermanagh on a scoreline of 1-15 to 0-3. Both sides will expect a much tougher challenge on Wednesday evening as they attempt to reach the provincial decider on Wednesday 6 April.
Armagh ran out convincing winners in the first round with an impressive scoreline of 5-16 to 0-9, but captain Gregory McCabe points out that there will be absolutely no complacency setting in in the Orchard ranks: “I don’t believe the scoreline against Down will have an impact going into the next game. We had to work hard against Down and we still have a lot to improve on. We were certainly happy with our overall team performance, but there are plenty of areas in which we need to up our game to compete against Monaghan.”
Under 21 boss, Peter McDonnell, would undoubtedly agree with Gregory and will have been busy since the Down game focusing on those areas of improvement that Gregory pointed to. “Peter McDonnell is an experienced manager and he coaches that through his teams. Peter, Diarmuid and Martin all believe that we are a good team and they know that we will work hard for them. Preparations for the Monaghan game have been going very well. We won’t be changing anything drastically in training going into the next game and our sole focus will be on Monaghan only.”
Monaghan, Ulster minor champions in 2013, will enter Wednesday’s challenge in confident mood having outplayed Fermanagh in the first round, including a second half in which they scored 1-10 to Fermanagh’s 0-0. “Over the years, Monaghan have always been a good team at this level and they have a strong side this year, so we expect nothing less than a hard game on Wednesday. We all know of the talent that this Monaghan side have and they are the team to beat in this year’s championship.” Armagh have a tough task ahead, but if they reproduce the type of performance which saw off Down last day out, they are certainly in with a shout of reaching the county’s first Ulster U21 final since 2009. Ádh mór ar an fhoireann bhainistíochta agus ar fhoireann Ard Mhacha Dé Céadaoin. Good luck to Peter, Diarmuid, Martin and the team on Wednesday evening. The game throws in at 8pm in Páirc Esler, Newry and all support for the Armagh lads would be very welcome. Ard Mhacha abú!